Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Rebecca Johnson (1934-2018)

Educator loved to cook for large family

Rebecca Johnson, 83, skilled in working with groups of children as a mother of eight, who became a teacher and principal in Toledo Public Schools, died Sunday at home in Springfield Township.

She had progressive supranuclear palsy, son Larry Johnson said.

Mrs. Johnson retired in 1998 as principal of Start High School.




“It was uplifting, from a woman’s point of view, to have a woman principal,” said Irma Petersen, who taught at Start from 1969-97. “She did a good job and was fair with the kids and with the teachers.”

Mrs. Johnson went to the University of Toledo after her youngest, Larry, was born. She eventually had bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist degrees from UT. She chose to be an educator because “she saw the opportunity and the need, and she always loved working with children,” her youngest said.

She taught children with special needs at Jones School, her first assignment, in 1971. She later became administrator of the Florence Crittenton Center, a day school for teen mothers, then an assistant principal at Bowsher High School.

She was Woodward High principal for four years, and in 1990 was named principal at Start. The next year, the district closed Macom- ber-Whitney Vocational and DeVilbiss high schools, causing a shift in high school principal assignments. Mrs. Johnson served as Byrnedale Junior High’s principal for a time, but returned to Start as principal to close her career.

She succeeded in boosting academic achievement at Start and recruiting parental and alumni help, said her son Tim, a retired dean of students at East Broadway Middle School.

“Whatever she put her mind to, she was pretty good at doing,” he recalled.

Mrs. Johnson liked to cook, even for Thanksgiving, which by the late 1980s became quite a production. Feeding her children’s families and her siblings — and assorted friends and acquaintances — took two large turkeys and a ham, and the Johnsons had to hire a hall in which to hold the gathering. Everyone brought a dish. Still, for years, Mrs. Johnson made most of the food.

“I have tremendous energy and I am very organized,” Mrs. Johnson told then-Blade Food Editor Mary Alice Powell just before Thanksgiving, 1986. She also gave credit to her husband.

She was born Aug. 17, 1934, to Margaret and Bernard Schaller and grew up in South Toledo. She was a 1952 graduate of Notre Dame Academy.

A son James died at birth.

Surviving are her husband, Richard, whom she married June 6, 1953; sons, Timothy, Thomas, Joseph, and Lawrence Johnson; daughters, Cheryl O’Hara, Marianne Palmer, Barbara Schnapp, and Jeannie Padgett; sisters, Joan Schaller and Emily Galambos; brother, Bernard Schaller, Jr.; 32 grandchildren, and 39 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, where she was a member. Arrangements are by Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

Contact Mark Zaborney at or 419-724-6182.

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